Why is Propane so freakin expensive?

According to the Energy Information Agency (EIA), propane prices are subject to a number of influences, some common to all petroleum products, and others unique to propane. Because propane is easily transported, it can serve many different markets, from fueling barbecue grills to producing petrochemicals. The price of propane in these markets is influenced by many factors, including the prices of competing fuels in each market; the distance propane has to travel to reach a customer; and the volumes used by a customer.

Although propane is produced from both crude oil refining and natural gas processing, its price is influenced mainly by the cost of crude oil. This relationship is because propane competes mostly with crude oil-based fuels.

Propane supply and demand is subject to changes in domestic production, weather, and inventory levels, among other factors. While propane production is not seasonal, residential demand is highly seasonal. This imbalance causes inventories to be built up during the summer months when consumption is low and for inventories to be drawn down during the winter months when consumption is much higher. When inventories of propane are low at the start of the winter heating season, chances increase that higher propane prices may occur during the winter season.

Propane prices occasionally spike, increasing disproportionately beyond that expected from normal supply/demand fluctuations. The main cause appears to lie in the logistical difficulty of obtaining resupply during the peak heating season. Because propane is produced at a relatively steady rate year-round by refineries and gas processing plants, there is no ready source of incremental production when supplies run low.

How much natural gas is being extracted from wells in my area?

Unfortunately we do not know which county you reside in, however the Pa. Department of Environment Protection has a great online resource where you can view production reports for wells in your area.

How long will Marcellus Shale be drilling?

The short answer to your question is at least a few decades, probably 30 years. As the second largest natural gas field in the world, at approximately 95,000 square miles and estimated to contain upwards of 410 trillion cubic feet of gas, this is an industry that will be around for quite some time. In 2011, the entire United States consumed 24 Tcf of natural gas, meaning that the Marcellus alone could supply just under 20 years of supply.

Is the industry aware that some groups seem pleased with their behavior so far? An attendee asked “What’s the issue”?

As a matter of fact, yes, we frequently hear from individuals, businesses and various stakeholders groups from all corners of the Commonwealth that support safe, job-creating natural gas development. Protecting and enhancing our environment, creating good local jobs and lowering energy costs for consumers is widely supported. This support bears out in public opinion polling too.

Is this campaign an attempt to cover your own asses when the general public finds out you are screwing them?

The safe development of clean-burning domestic natural gas represents an historic opportunity for our region and for the nation. Our industry’s collective efforts — including this initiative — are focused on fostering a fact- and science-based community conversation about safe, job-creating American natural gas. We have an obligation to answer real questions with straightforward facts. And as polls indicate, the general public supports the responsible development of clean-burning natural gas.

What is the commitment to communicate to low income residents and how can we evaluate the success of that communication?

The MSC, and our member companies, are committed to effectively communicating with and engaging every single demographic and a broad spectrum of stakeholders. Each and every one of us stands to continue to benefit from safe shale development, through more affordable energy costs, cleaner air and more jobs.

For example, we have partnered with various non-profits — in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, as well as regional groups — to host supply chain forums aimed at better informing minority-owned companies of the opportunities available in the natural gas industry.

We’ll continue to build upon these collective efforts, and others, to make certain that we get this historic opportunity right for the commonwealth – and for generations to come.

Haven’t scientists been developing natural gas all along?

Natural gas development was pioneered in the United States. In fact, “In 1821, William Hart dug the first successful natural gas well in the U.S. in Fredonia, New York.”

And today — thanks to the persistence and entrepreneurial spirit of George Mitchell and others — “We produce more natural gas than any country on Earth,” as President Obama underscored in a recent speech.

Click here to watch an informational video about the many Uses of Natural Gas.

Is the industry willing to work with the conservation groups to make a documentary DVD or TV program focusing on the benefits to wildlife and wildlife habitat?

The Marcellus Shale Coalition is always open to considering new partnerships. Please contact us if you have an idea you would like to discuss. You can also read about our members’ commitment to wildlife and wildlife habitat in a fact sheet about how we strive to share the woods and in our Recommended Practices of how operators can limit their impact on the surrounding wildlife and habitat.

Why is there an east/west divide around the industry?

The short answer is the natural gas found in central and northeastern Pennsylvania is considered “dry gas” while the natural gas developed in western and southwestern Pennsylvania is “wet gas.” This has to do with the contents of the gas. Dry gas is close to pure methane. Wet gas has heavier hydrocarbons (butane, ethane, propane) mixed in with the methane. If your question is referring to a general divide between the residents of the two geographies, we don’t see a divide. Natural gas development has broad support across Pennsylvania, as the benefits of development know no geographic boundary.

More Frequently Ask Questions about Marcellus Shale


Facts about the Natural Gas Impact Tax

If you guessed $830 million, you are correct!

The impact tax is on track to generate nearly $830 million by April of this year. These enormous tax revenues go directly into the communities where natural gas production takes place as well as each and every one of our 67 counties. To view how much revenue your county has received, along with important environmental programs, visit the Pa. Public Utility Commission’s website [more info here as well].

  • Click HERE to view Ten Reasons How New Energy Taxes Would “Squander a Tremendous Opportunity.”

And take action today to stand with working families, local communities and small businesses across Pennsylvania in our effort to protect jobs and economic opportunity for generations to come.

What are the job opportunities for residents of this region who are unable or unwilling to relocate?

While jobs in engineering, construction, and equipment operations are most plentiful, there are professional services and support positions being filled by firms located in southeastern Pennsylvania. Additionally, many of the jobs at the South Philadelphia and Delaware County refineries are directly tied to Marcellus development. For additional information on employment opportunities in the natural gas industry, visit the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s Job Portal.


What is the economic impact of the development on SEPA?

While the Marcellus Shale formation does not extend beneath SEPA, that doesn’t mean those in the Philadelphia area aren’t benefiting. The most obvious impact is the utility rate savings that everyone, including those in the greater Philadelphia region, have received as a result of this development. Researchers recently found that in 2012, because of reduced natural gas prices, consumers have an additional $1,200 in their pocket, as recently reported by the Wall Street Journal. There are also manufacturing companies and professional services firms (law firms, environmental and civil engineers, construction companies) that are also supporting this development. Lastly, the revitalization of the refineries in South Philadelphia and Delaware County are directly tied to Marcellus Shale natural gas development.


How do our energy prices compare to other states that do not have natural gas and how can we use low pricing to attract manufacturing?

Great question. Cheap natural gas certainly provides a competitive advantage to manufacturers, and the proximity to that gas provides yet another advantage – the closer you are to the resource, the less you have to pay in pipeline transportation costs.

As for energy prices, that’s a bit trickier to answer. As you probably know, crude oil is a global commodity and priced on the global market. Natural gas on the other hand, is a regional commodity and the price can vary from one state to another and in some cases, the prices can be different in the same state. When you look at electricity rates, somewhat of an equalizer, Pennsylvania was just above the national average in 2011 at $10.45 per kilowatthour.

Are price dynamics for Marcellus different from gas from non-shale sources (early production rate fall-off) and will price be more or less stable?

Natural gas prices — like virtually every commodity — will ebb and flow over time. It is quite clear, though, that our abundant and growing resource base will help keep energy prices affordable for American consumers and businesses for decades to come.

In fact, President Obama said this during his 2013 State of the Union Address:

After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it.”

Additionally, there is a benefit to living near the Marcellus development. Historically, local utilities had to transport natural gas from the U.S. Gulf coast and the Midwest to serve their customers. With that transportation comes added costs. By sourcing gas locally, some utilities no longer have to transport gas from hundreds of miles away, in turn saving money that translates into lower bills for their customers. Between 2008 and 2011, the region’s largest natural gas utilities averaged a 41.25-percent cut in rates for consumers, equating to nearly $3,200 in average savings per customer during that period.

Which would be more economically responsible, finding more fossil fuels or a new alternative?

Access to affordable, reliable forms of energy are key to a strong, growing and prosperous economy. From manufacturing to transportation to providing a reliable and efficient means to power our homes and businesses, natural gas is a key and growingly important component of our domestic energy portfolio.

Wind and solar also play a critical role, but they often rely on natural gas as a backup source to provide consumers with power when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow. And researchers from Citi note that “a symbiotic relationship” exists between shale and renewable energy forms. Additionally, natural gas is a key feedstock in the manufacturing of solar panels and wind mill blades.

President Obama, in a recent speech, highlight the fact that “We’ve got to tap into this natural gas revolution that’s bringing energy costs down in this country, which means manufacturers now want to locate here.”

While we absolutely must continue to produce and invest in all forms of energy, as well as common sense conservation efforts, America’s abundant supplies of clean-burning natural gas will remain a driving force for our economy and for improving air quality for decades to come.

Is it true that Act 13 provides for money that can be used for conservation to go to the municipalities?

Absolutely. And just recently, the Pa. Public Utility Commission (PUC) allocated $202.4 million – which is in addition to $1.8 billion paid in natural gas-related taxes and last year’s impact fees of more than $200 million – to various programs, including conservation efforts.

Impact fee revenues – generated by the safe, job-creating shale development – are allocated largely to counties and municipalities across the commonwealth, as well as other important programs.

And as laid out in Act 13, 40% of impact fee revenues go toward the Marcellus Legacy Fund and are used for:

  • 15 percent of the Marcellus Legacy Fund is distributed by the Commission to all counties, regardless of whether the county has wells located within its borders, to be used for certain environmental initiatives, as set forth in Section 2315(a.1)(5) of the Act. 
  • Counties ARE NOT required to report the expenditure of these funds to the Commission.
  • Other funds making up the Marcellus Legacy Fund include, but are not limited to the Highway Bridge Improvement Fund and the Environmental Stewardship Fund.

PUC Chairman Robert Powelson called this new revenue source a “game changer” that is “helping revitalize parts of Pennsylvania that were in dire need.” We absolute agree.


What happens when drilling companies go bankrupt?

If a natural gas operator does in fact go bankrupt, the same process holds true for their business as it would for any other business.  Natural gas operators are also required to have a bond on their well pads in the event something should occur and the company is no longer in existence to address the impact.

How can I get a job in the Marcellus Shale industry?

While there are a number of online resources for employment opportunities in the natural gas industry, we would direct you to the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s Job Portal, which links to the employment sections of our 300+ member companies websites.

More Frequently Ask Questions about the Economy


Are there some areas in PA of high enough ecological value that they should not be drilled in?

There are some areas that are not open to development of any kind because of their ecological value. Pennsylvania also has in place a host of laws and regulations to ensure that natural gas development can happen in approved areas while protecting our environment and native species. Federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act, also ensure environmental protection. Our organization’s Recommended Practices on site restoration strive to improve the environment.

How will PA be affected after the drilling is complete?

One of the natural gas industries main objectives is to minimize our geological footprint and bring properties back to pre-drilling conditions once active operations are complete. In order to reduce our impact we rely on a restoration process that involves landscaping and contouring to previous specifications. Here is some information directly from our website:

Why Site Development and Restoration Recommended Practices are Important:

In order to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale and deliver it to end-users, surface facilities and disturbances are necessary, including disturbances for the construction of well pads, access roads, water and gas pipelines, gas compression and processing facilities, and gas transmission lines. This infrastructure is vital to obtain the economic and energy security benefits from this abundant natural resource. However it is also desirable to producers and the public at large to minimize impacts from these activities; therefore, our members have committed to apply recommended practices in site development and restoration, all of which are intended to mimic pre-disturbance conditions or, in some cases, improve sites for desired end-uses.

Coalition members recognize that responsible development of the Marcellus Shale must acknowledge the needs and concerns of all relevant stakeholders. We are committed to ensuring that all parties engaged in the development of the clean-burning natural gas of the Marcellus Shale utilize procedures and technologies that will protect and preserve vital environmental resources for generations to come.

You can read our recommended practices for restoration in full here.


Is shale gas the same as the natural gas we have been getting from other stratel?

Yes, natural gas from shale formations – such as the Marcellus, Utica, and Upper Devonian – is essentially the same as natural gas that we have been producing from shallow formations for years. Now operators drill up to 8,000 feet underground, reaching the shale formation, before they begin the hydraulic fracturing process to stimulate trapped natural gas.

With the discovery of vast shale deposits, we now have a clean burning energy source, lower greenhouse gas emissions, energy independence, and countless jobs. President Obama understands the importance of these newfound, job-creating resources which are being produced safely. Click here to read about what he and his administration are saying about safe, tightly-regulated American shale gas development. And visit Penn State’s shale site for more information.

Between trucking, compression, extraction, infrastructure repair and construction, etc., isn’t natural gas just as environmentally hazardous/unsustainable as other fossil fuels.

All energy sources, and all industrial activity, carry a level of risk. And when you think about it, every activity in life, carries some risk. The key to responsible energy development, like any other, is to effectively manage that risk. With stringent environmental (Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Stream Act, Act 13 etc.) and safety regulations (OSHA) in place at both the state and federal level, natural gas development in Pennsylvania is progressing in a safe and responsible manner.

Additionally, with recent improvements in technology over the past 10 years, and the discovery of shale resources from coast-to-coast, the United States has decades, and according to some estimations 100 years, worth of clean-burning natural gas.


What are the different types of natural gas?

There are two basic types of natural gas. The characteristics that separate wet from dry are technically dependent on the “thermal maturity” of the rock formation.

This is how Penn State University describes the difference between the two:

  • Natural gas is known as being dry or wet, with dry gas being more thermally mature and consisting primarily of  methane, whereas wet gas is less thermally mature and may contain “natural gas liquids” including ethane, butane, propane, and pentane.  These natural gas liquids need to be separated from the methane to ensure the natural gas sent to consumers has a consistent BTU content.  Wet gas is currently considered to be more valuable in the marketplace as the natural gas liquids have inherent value as a commodity. 

In the Marcellus deposit, you can find both wet and dry gas. To view this on a map click HERE


What independent studies to date have been performed on the effects of fracking on nearby drinking water?

As you may know, a host of objective, fact-based studies have been conducted focused on groundwater and hydraulic fracturing. Universally, the results continue to clearly demonstrate that fracturing does not impact groundwater.

Recently, in fact, as the Associated Press reports, “A landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site.”

Top officials from across the nation, including President Obama’s former EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, have confirmed time and again that hydraulic fracturing has never impacted groundwater. And U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz recently said that “I still have not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater.”

And the principal reason is that there are extensive regulations, safeguards and practices in place to ensure that our region’s water resources are effectively managed and protected. At each stage of the process, water resources are extremely monitored. Click here to view to learn more about how groundwater resources are protected.

Why are plant leaves turning brown?

That’s a great question. The Pennsylvania Tourism Office provides a great deal of timely information regarding the Commonwealth’s unique, regional fall leave patterns. Click HERE for more information. Likewise, the Pennsylvania Department Of Conservation and Natural Resources, which notes that “Pennsylvania has a longer and more varied fall foliage season than any other state in the nation — or anywhere in the world,” releases a Weekly Fall Foliage Report. And be sure to view the department’s “Why Do Autumn Leaves Change Color?” overview HERE.

600 plus chemicals being pumped into the ground affect the ground water, what clean up can be done to fix that?

Despite claims, hydraulic fracturing fluids are made up of approximately 99.5 percent of the fluid is water and sand. The other 0.5 percent of the fracturing fluid is composed of (in most cases) 3 to 12 additives – not 600 – that serve a unique purpose. This from FracFocus, a national hydraulic fracturing fluids disclosure database that is administered by environmental regulators:

Chemicals serve many functions in hydraulic fracturing. From limiting the growth of bacteria to preventing corrosion of the well casing, chemicals are needed to insure that the fracturing job is effective and efficient. The number of chemical additives used in a typical fracture treatment depends on the conditions of the specific well being fractured. A typical fracture treatment will use very low concentrations of between 3 and 12 additive chemicals, depending on the characteristics of the water and the shale formation being fractured. Each component serves a specific, engineered purpose.

On the issue of water management and protecting groundwater, you should know that shale producers in our region leverage technologies to recycle and reuse more and more water. This is a clear environmental winner. In fact, according to the most recent data gathered by the Pa. DEP, Marcellus Shale producers are recycling and reusing, in some cases, more than 90 percent of flowback water. The remaining water is disposed of in EPA-approved and permitted underground injection wells.


Do you believe you have the moral obligation of telling me how your processes negatively affect my water supply? Do you accept the premise that there is a moral obligation?

As you may know, strong regulatory safeguards and requirements are in place to ensure that our water resources are protected as natural gas is safely developed, leveraging advanced technologies.

And while some claim that the natural gas development process – specifically hydraulic fracturing – has impacted groundwater, facts and science continue to demonstrate otherwise. In fact, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has said: “To my knowledge, I still have not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater.”

While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, our industry remains focused on operational transparency, protecting our environment and ensuring that the ongoing and important dialogue surrounding natural gas development is based on facts and science.

As you may know, strong regulatory safeguards and requirements are in place to ensure that our water resources are protected as natural gas is safely developed, leveraging advanced technologies.

And while some claim that the natural gas development process – specifically hydraulic fracturing – has impacted groundwater, facts and science continue to demonstrate otherwise. In fact, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has said: “To my knowledge, I still have not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater.”
While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, our industry remains focused on operational transparency, protecting our environment and ensuring that the ongoing and important dialogue surrounding natural gas development is based on facts and science.

More Frequently Ask Questions about the Enviroment


What is being done to track/monitor/regulate the various wells throughout the state?

Development of the Marcellus Shale is overseen by the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Office of Oil and Gas Management. In order to drill a well, an operator must first obtain a well permit as well as fulfill a financial incentive to ensure all essential operations are performed to maintain the safety and integrity of the well. During the permit application process, the applicant must show the location of the well as well as its distance from coal seams, surface waters and/or water supplies. DEP staff reviews the application and approves the final location of the well site before any drilling takes place. If the well site is approved and drilling happens there, operators are required to submit extensive reports on well completion, waste management, semi-annual production and well plugging, which is required once a well stops producing. All operators are required to case and cement wells before drilling and restore the site once the well is completed. DEP staff also conduct on-site inspections and investigate complaints from the public.

For interested landowners and municipalities, DEP has a free online service that sends a notification when the agency receives a permit application for any area(s) the landowner/municipality chooses.

Is there a research fund at the state that would use revenues coming in from the industry?

Marcellus Shale operators have paid more than $406 million over the past two years in impact fees, which are allocated to municipalities around the state as well as government organizations that conduct research into new regulations and systems, along with the effect of this growing industry on the Pennsylvania. The Department of Environmental Protection recently offered an update on air quality sampling it is conducting.

How much do you pay in taxes–my husband and I pay taxes on our small pensions. Just curious to know how much your corporation pays?

The natural gas industry pays the same taxes as every other industry/business operating in the commonwealth. Since 2006, the natural gas industry is responsible for more than $1.8 billion in tax revenue, and over the past two years generated more than $400 million in impact fees

Do you offer any scholarship money for future gas and petro engineers?

Many of our member companies have scholarship programs with various universities and vocational/technical schools and the Marcellus Shale Coalition has worked with the Community College of Philadelphia to provide opportunities to those in the region interested in furthering their career in the energy industry.

Why does the natural gas industry continuously refuse to disclose the constituent chemicals in the fracturing liquid? As well as obfuscate any attempt at passing regulation in order to require such practices?

The natural gas industry in Pennsylvania is required to disclose – on a well-by-well basis – the chemical additives used in fracturing fluids. Additionally, additives represent less than 1% of the hydraulic fracturing fluid – the other 99+ percent is sand and water. As far as the chemicals used in the process, the Marcellus Shale Coalition was an early supporter of greater transparency and disclosure. You can access a list of additives and why they’re used here on fracfocus.org, a national chemical disclosure registry.

Pennsylvania’s Act 13 also ensures this disclosure. Here are a few key excerpts of what’s required:

  • Unconventional well operators must complete a chemical disclosure registry form for publication on FracFocus.org in addition to the reporting required to be submitted to the department.
  • Within 60 days of the conclusion of hydraulic fracturing, operators must complete and post the chemical registry disclosure form on the registry.
  • Act 13 provides for immediate, verbal communication of any proprietary information to emergency responders to ensure the necessary care or treatment is delivered to anyone who may have been affected.
  • The Act states that nothing shall prevent the department, a public health official, an emergency manager or a responder to a spill, release or complaint from a person who may have been aggrieved by the spill or release from obtaining information needed upon written request.

What is the role of the SRBC in overseeing/permitting withdrawals on a water-shed wide basin?

As you may know, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) regulates water withdrawals and consumptive water use in the river basin, for all industrial, including natural gas use. SRBC provides a great overview of its role in natural gas development. Click here to view that online.

And while natural gas development continues at a steady pace in the region, scientific SRBC data demonstrates that the basin is well-protected. Click here to learn more.

Why did the industry push for Act 13 which removes local zoning authority and places a gag order on physicians?

Despite claims, Act 13 dramatically expanded transparency and further modernized the commonwealth’s robust regulatory framework. As it relates to disclosure of fracturing fluids, click here and here to review the facts. And more here from Pa. DEP:

“Act 13 provides for immediate, verbal communication of any proprietary information to emergency responders to ensure the necessary care or treatment is delivered to anyone who may have been affected. The Act states that nothing shall prevent the department, a public health official, an emergency manager or a responder to a spill, release or complaint from a person who may have been aggrieved by the spill or release from obtaining information needed upon written request.”

As you may know, Act 13 aims to provide certainty and predictability that encourages investment and job creation across the Commonwealth. Lack of uniformity has long been an Achilles’ heel for Pennsylvania and must be resolved if the Commonwealth is to remain a leader in responsible American natural gas development and reap the associated economic, environmental and national security benefits. We’d also encourage you to review these facts about this important issue.

Where is the intersection between local and state government and how is the local population protected?

Here in Pennsylvania, we have some of the strongest regulations in place to ensure that hydraulic fracturing is done in a way that protects our environment and our neighbors.

In February 2012, Pennsylvania enacted Act 13, a comprehensive law that according to the Department of Environmental Protection,enacted stronger environmental standards, authorized local governments to adopt an impact fee and built upon the state’s ongoing efforts to move towards energy independence as unconventional gas development continues”

Additional facts and documents on bipartisan Act 13 can be found on the PA DEP’s website, including a list of FAQs, and even a PowerPoint overview.

For a chart on hydraulic fracturing regulation at every stop of the process, click here.

What is the administration doing to ensure the interests of the state are met in the long term?

The state government continues to effectively and tightly-regulated the safe development of natural gas in the Commonwealth. From a purely regulatory standpoint, in February 2012, Pennsylvania enacted Act 13, a comprehensive law that according to the Department of Environmental Protection, “enacted stronger environmental standards, authorized local governments to adopt an impact fee and built upon the state’s ongoing efforts to move towards energy independence as unconventional gas development continues.”

Importantly, Act 13 is designed to ensure that natural gas-related benefits continue to reach literally every inch of the Commonwealth. Through the law’s impact fee, hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues – in addition to the nearly $1.8 billion in taxes that the natural gas industry has paid over the past several years – are helping to fund important programs in each of our 67 counties. Here are examples of how these benefits are positively impacting Pennsylvania communities, many of which that do not have natural gas drilling activities:

More Frequently Ask Questions about the Government


Are there plans to add a permanent pipeline for the drilling companies’ water supplies to come into the area or will the locals in shale areas have to hear the rumbling of water trucks forever?

Yes, pipelines can be used to transport water to a well pad and some operators are moving in this direction when logistically possible.

The responsible development of natural gas from shale formations involves both the use of fresh water and the return of water from underground formations. Water is often transported by pipeline for its initial use as well as for recycling and re-use.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition’s Recommended Practices for Water Pipelines is the sixth in a series of guidance documents aimed at further enhancing the safe development of natural gas across the Appalachian basin. This Recommended Practice is in line with the MSC’s Guiding Principles to “implement state-of-the-art environmental protection across our operations” and supports ongoing industry efforts to reduce its operational footprint.

When is the pipeline ready for operation?

The first step in pipeline construction is obtaining the appropriate permits and right of way (ROW) easements to construction the line. Upon completion, there are a number of tests conducted to ensure the structural integrity of the line before it goes into operation. These tests include x-raying the welds on the pipe to ensure mechanical integrity, hydro tests, which consists of running pressurized water through the line to check for leaks, as well pig runs to ensure there are not any deficiencies inside the pipe.

What happens to the brine?

The vast majority, upwards of 90 percent of flow-back water (brine) is recycled and reused for future well completion activities. When the water returns to the surface, operators can either treat the water at the wellsite and store it for future use, or transport the water to a centralized water treatment facility where it can be recycled for future use. Operators can also send flow-back water to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulated Class II injection wells.

Is export, via ocean transport, a realistic possibility? What will it take to make that possible?

Yes. In fact, as of September 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy has approved four export facilities with 20 additional permits awaiting review and approval. For additional information on liquefied natural gas (LNG), visit the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas.

Where and how is the fracking solution disposed of?

According to the most recent data gathered by the Pa. DEP, Marcellus Shale producers are recycling and reusing more than 90 percent of the water that returns to the surface. The remaining water is disposed of in EPA-approved and permitted underground injection wells. MSC member companies have pioneered large-scale water recycling technologies over the past several years. It’s an accomplishment that we are proud of and one that’s good for both the environment and our industry. For more on water usage, click here.

How is water actually withdrawn from a stream?

With a hose, water is pumped out of an approved stream at a designated withdrawal point and then either transported by truck or conveyed through a water pipeline to a well location.

Water withdrawal for natural gas drilling is one of Pennsylvania’s tightly regulated processes. Depending in which part of the Marcellus Shale play the hydraulic fracturing operations are happening, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection require operators to seek approval before withdrawing or using any amount of water for unconventional natural gas development. Streams must meet certain flow rates and standards in order to be considered for withdrawal; and withdrawal from any streams designated “exceptional value” can only happen with the appropriate regulatory agency’s approval of the operator’s water management plan request.

Where do you take your polluted water? How much do you store on site? How do you treat it at site and for final treatment?

Approximately 10 to 30 percent of the total water used in the hydraulic fracturing process returns to the surface as what is called flowback water. This remaining water, which contains naturally occurring elements as well as certain chemicals used during the extraction process, is captured and stored for treatment or disposal. Emerging technology allows operators to use fewer chemicals and recycle up to 100 percent of their flowback water in one of several ways.

One option is to treat the flowback water on site for reuse with an oxidation system that removes the dissolved solid material from the flowback. Another disposal option involves injecting the excess water into permitted deep injection wells off site. A third option is for flowback water to be disposed into bodies of existing water; however, the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection dictates that flowback must meet state drinking water standards and be treated to have a total dissolved solids (TDS) concentration of 500 parts per million or less before being discharged into bodies of surface water.

As part of the application process to drill a well, operators must identify where excess water or flowback will be treated and stored. Before drilling can begin, operators are required to test all water wells and surface waters within 2,500 feet of any proposed drill. These test results serve as a baseline for any future water quality tests.


How much gas stays here in vs. being sent to other places?

Natural gas operators in Pennsylvania annually produce more than 198 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Pennsylvania consumes about 804 billion cubic feet of natural gas every year, so these levels satisfy 25 percent of the state’s annual demand. Natural gas from the Marcellus Shale is providing a wide array of economic and environmental benefits to communities all over Pennsylvania.

In Susquehanna County, converting to natural gas this upcoming year will save the school district $60,000 on heating costs alone. According to the Leatherstocking Natural Gas Company, local residents who make the switch to using natural gas in order to heat their homes can save upwards of $1,300 a year, depending on their current heating source. Another local benefit of increased production and natural gas usage is the dramatic decrease in air pollution around the state.

Is there a central sourcing point for the industry?

In Pennsylvania, the best source of Marcellus Shale gas is in the western and north-central/northeastern portions of the state due to the depth, thickness and total organic content of the resource in those areas.

More Frequently Ask Questions about the Process